Vacation inflation: Beware of sticker shock when you finally book a trip, says St. John’s travel agent

After two long years, many Atlantic Canadians are grabbing their passports for some cautious fun in the sun.

“Since the federal government made the change to border restrictions and changed the travel advisory status, we’ve seen an increase in interest and people booking,” said Jennifer Neary, owner of Once In a Lifetime Travel in St. John’s, NL

There has been an increase in people taking their chances and heading south of the border for spring break, she says, and to escape winter weather.

“I think people are interested in a change in the weather and eager to experience new cultures,” said Neary. “It’s been a long two years of not being able to go anywhere. So, now that things are opening up, people are feeling more secure. People are vaccinated, so they are ready to experience something new.”

What about COVID?

“COVID is now a known risk,” Neary said. “A lot of people who are now booking have already had COVID. I think now you are just as likely to catch COVID in the supermarket as you are when you are traveling overseas, so I think most people are comfortable with the level of risk associated with traveling.”

For those considering going on a holiday in the near future, Neary says people should not feel pressure to hit the road just because they can. Instead, she recommends weighing out what they do or do not feel comfortable with.

Jennifer Neary, owner of Once In a Lifetime Travel in St. John's, NL, is seeing an increase in people who want to travel but suggests people book fast as prices are increasing.  - Contributed
Jennifer Neary, owner of Once In a Lifetime Travel in St. John’s, NL, is seeing an increase in people who want to travel but suggests people book fast as prices are increasing. – Contributed

“Everybody has to be comfortable with their own risk level,” said Neary. “I wouldn’t necessarily recommend my senior citizen mother going anywhere too far right now, but for someone who is fully vaccinated, there isn’t necessarily the same health risks. Everyone needs to way those risk factors and make decisions for themselves based on the guidance provided by health authorities and federal government.”

Neary also recommends that her clients ensure they have travel insurance.

“Travel is an investment in an experience,” said Neary. “If you are traveling, you want to make sure you are protecting that investment. So, if for some reason like COVID, you can’t go on the trip, then you are protected.”

Eager to travel

Gwen Spence and her partner, Jim, of Truro, NS are part of the group eager to hop on a plane.

“We normally go on a trip every two years but weren’t able to because of COVID,” said Spence, who had just returned to Canada in 2020 before the world shut down.

They recently booked a trip to Mexico and are both excited to go.

“You have to enjoy life while you can,” said Spence. “We feel comfortable going because we have all our shots and we will wear our masks when we need to. I’m looking forward to some sunshine, sand and good food.”

Now is the perfect timing to travel, she says, adding that she’s looking forward to enjoying a Nova Scotia summer when she returns.

“We don’t go any later than this – we have a cottage, so hopefully by the time we get back, it will be time to start opening the cottage,” Spence said.

Although there are places in Canada they could have traveled to visit family, they are both over the cold of winter and were dreaming of sunny skies.

“We want some sunshine and heat,” Spence said. “We have kids in Calgary and Saskatoon but it’s not great weather this time of year and we want to go somewhere where don’t have to cook and everything is taken care of.”

Inflation implications

If you’re booking a vacation right now, prepare for some sticker shock.

Neary notes that this is to be expected, given the current circumstances.

“I think that people understand the price of everything has gone up and, right now, we are seeing a huge demand to travel,” said Neary.

She points out that not all flights have resumed in all locations, which can further drive up prices.

“There isn’t as much available as there was before the pandemic because there isn’t as much flight availability coming out of Newfoundland, specifically,” she said.

“So, I think there is a bit of sticker shock, but we haven’t seen it prevent people from traveling. Many people haven’t gone anywhere for two years, so while it may be a bit more expensive, they haven’t spent their travel budget the last couple years so they are eager to do a bucket list trip.”

Sticker shock is something Spence narrowly avoided as she was watching for deals and noticed prices slowly rising.

“We booked just-in-time. We got our tickets, and then two days, later they went up $800 a person,” Spence said. “A lot of people are going to see sticker shock.”

Neary also recommends booking now and not waiting.

“There is a pent-up demand, so if there is something that is on your radar, it is better to book it sooner rather than later,” said Neary.

And for couples looking to elope down south, it may be more complicated than it was in previous years, she adds, so it’s important to firm up plans quickly.

“With weddings, we are seeing difficulty booking dates at different resorts because for the last two years, weddings have been postponed or canceled and now there is a huge demand in 2023-2024,” said Neary.

“If there is something you are interested in, I wouldn’t delay because there isn’t much availability at certain places because it has been so long since people have been able to travel.”

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